Biography of Isaac N. Sullivan

Isaac N. Sullivan
Isaac N. Sullivan

As long as the history of jurisprudence in Idaho shall be a matter of record, the name of Judge Isaac Newton Sullivan will figure conspicuously therein, by reason of the fact that his has been the distinguished honor of serving as the first chief justice of the state as well as from the fact that he is recognized as the peer of the ablest representatives of the legal profession in the entire northwest. For the third term he is occupying a position on the bench of the Supreme Court, and his career has been an honor to the state which has so highly honored him.

Judge Sullivan is a native of Iowa, his birth having occurred on his father’s farm in Coffin Grove Township, Delaware County, November 3, 1848. He is of Scotch, Irish and German extraction, and in his life exhibits some of the most commendable characteristics of those nationalities. His paternal grandfather, Aaron Sullivan, was born in the north of Ireland and when a young man emigrated to New Jersey. He was married in New Jersey and at an early day in its history removed to Ohio, locating in Logan County, near Degraff. He had seven children, born in New Jersey and Ohio, and reared and educated in Ohio. The third of this family was Aaron Sullivan, father of the Judge. He married Miss Jane Lippincott, and in 1844 removed to Iowa, becoming one of the pioneers and prominent citizens of Delaware County. He held the office of justice of the peace and also that of County commissioner, and was one of the organizers of the Republican party in that locality, being a great lover of liberty and an inflexible opponent of slavery and oppression in every form. He became an extensive farmer and stock-raiser and largely promoted the agricultural interests of his County. He died in 1892, in the eighty-second year of his age, and the community mourned the loss of one of its most upright and honorable citizens. His wife had departed this life in 1886 at the age of sixty-seven years. They were members of the Wesleyan Methodist church, that offshoot from the Methodist Episcopal denomination which took a firm stand in its opposition to slavery.

Judge Sullivan is the fifth in order of birth in their family of nine children, eight of whom are vet living. His elementary education, acquired in the public schools, was supplemented by a course in Adrian College, of Michigan, and subsequently he pursued the study of law under the direction of Judge J. M. Brayton, of Delhi, Iowa. In 1879 he was admitted to practice by the supreme court of that state, and continued a member of the Iowa bar until 1881, at which time he came to Idaho, locating in Hailey, Blaine County, where he practiced with success until his elevation to the supreme bench. Nature bountifully endowed him with the peculiar qualifications that combine to make a successful lawyer. Patiently persevering, possessed of an analytical mind, and one that is readily receptive and retentive of the fundamental principles and intricacies of the law; gifted with a spirit of devotion to wearisome details: quick to comprehend the most subtle problems and logical in his conclusions: fearless in the advocacy of any cause he may espouse, and the soul of honor and integrity, few men have been more richly gifted for the achievement of success in the arduous, difficult profession of the law.

At the first election held after the adoption of the Idaho state constitution, in 1890, Judge Sullivan was chosen a justice of the Supreme Court. The judges then cast lots for the length of terms they should serve, and by reason of securing the shortest term Judge Sullivan became the first chief justice of the state. In 1892 he was re-elected for a full term of six years, and during the years 1897 and 1898 he was again chief justice, and in November 1898, was once more chosen for the high office which he is now so creditably filling. His decisions form an important part of the judicial history of the state, and have in many instances excited the highest admiration of the bar of the state. He has been a lifelong Re-publican, but disagrees with his party on the money question and was elected for his third term on the silver Republican ticket.

He has interests in both farming and mining lands, owning a number of patented mining claims which yield silver and lead ores. At Hailey, where he has so long resided, he has a very commodious home, containing a large and valuable law library, as well as an extensive library of general literature, which indicates the cultured and Intellectual taste of the inmates of the home. The Judge was happily married in 1870, to Miss Chastine Josephine Moore, a daughter of S. W. Moore, a pioneer settler of the Western Reserve of Ohio. They have two sons, both lawyers. The elder, Willis E., is a graduate of the Columbian University, of Washington, D. C, and is now engaged in the practice of law in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The younger son, Lawerne L., is a graduate of the same university, and is now with his parents in Hailey. Mrs. Sullivan is a valued member of the Methodist church, and, like her husband, is highly esteemed by many friends throughout the state. In manner the Judge is quiet and unassuming, and this entire lack of self-laudation is one of the characteristics that have endeared him to the people. A man of unimpeachable character, of unusual intellectual endowments, with a thorough understanding of the law, patience, urbanity and industry, he took to the bench the very highest qualifications for this most responsible office in the system of the state government, and his record as a judge has been in harmony with his record as a man and a lawyer, distinguished by unswerving integrity and a masterful grasp of every problem that has presented itself for solution.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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